Everitt freed from contract

Special
Starting Jan. 2, Elizabeth Everitt will be Aiken County schools chief.

AIKEN --- School officials in Albuquerque, N.M., say they're going to miss Beth Everitt when she takes the helm of Aiken County schools, adding that she's proven to be a good leader during her 25 years there.

"She had been good to us and we were going to do the same for her," Paula Maes, the Albuquerque School Board president, said Wednesday about releasing Dr. Everitt from her contract last week. "It's not without sorrow that we're letting her go, but it's not a hostile split."

Dr. Everitt, who was the superintendent for Albuquerque schools, is less than a month away from becoming the new superintendent of schools in Aiken County. She said she's ready to return to the South for family in the area.

Dr. Everitt was under contract with Albuquerque until 2008, but she asked out of her contract when the Aiken County School Board approved her as superintendent last week. She begins work Jan. 2.

During the process of her hiring in Aiken County, some school board members discussed allegations of a past grade change in Albuquerque schools and an audit of that system.

Dr. Everitt was investigated for her initial support of the administrator who approved the grade change, but she was exonerated when the New Mexico Education Department ruled she did not receive enough information to make a decision.

The senior's grade was changed from a D to an F by an Albuquerque cluster administrator in charge of Rio Grande High School. The school's principal and the teacher disapproved of the change.

The student is the child of a former school board member and county commissioner.

"So much of that is not released, but knowing Dr. Everitt as well as I do, she made the right decision with the information she had," Ms. Maes said. "I don't feel she was influenced at all by the former school board member or the county commissioner. When you have a 25-year record, you cannot judge a person by one incident."

Other officials in Albuquerque say such past issues don't speak of the experience and leadership that Dr. Everitt will bring to the Aiken area.

"It's been a goal of our union for a long time to form a collaborative relationship instead of working on the same issues in different ways. We've successfully done that with Beth," said Albuquerque's teacher union president, Ellen Bernstein. "We went through developmental stages where communication goes first and then cooperation and then some collaboration and development of programs."

She said collaboration fostered by Dr. Everitt brought more unity between the school district and the union, benefiting teachers and students.

"You're not getting a lemon," Mrs. Bernstein said.

Reach Julia Sellers at (803) 648-1395, ext. 106 or julia.sellers@augustachronicle.com.